By Coores E. Celoy and Vic Arthur R. Masliyan
The residents of Midas Hill in sitio Kesbeng at Barangay Poblacion, La Trinidad, Benguet, decry the on-going subdivision project. To them, said construction is detrimental not only in Midas Hill but also in its surrounding barangay.
In fact, in September 2018, during the wrath of typhoon Ompong, a portion of the land eroded from the subdivision area when buried and damaged parts of Sitio Kesbeng, Central Buyagan, and some parts of Barangay Wangal. It was just fortunate that there were no casualties.
The subject property is about nine hectares and is privately owned by three individuals. The owners, however, allowed developers to construct a subdivision on their land. Eventually, Cordillera Home Saint Francis Inc. (CHSF), the first developer company attempted to build the infrastructures. However, it was stopped due to deficiency of required papers for construction.
In 2004, CHSF Inc. turned-over the project to the CDJ Group Construction. The project was then headed by Jude Wal. The CDJ then continued the project which paved way to the subdivision construction project.
The construction continued until typhoon Ompong came. Since a large portion of soil eroded towards its nearby areas, the Municipal Engineers Office, together with the barangay officials, conducted an investigation and found out that there were no mitigating measures made by CDJ. Accordingly, before constructing any kind of infrastructures, the company must first build canal and ripraps.
According to Manuel Amoy Jr., Barangay. Captain of Poblacion, La Trinidad, they also found out that CDJ has started their construction without a building permit. As a result, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoked the Environment Certificate of Compliance (ECC) of CDJ. ECC is one of the requirements in order to grant a building permit.
Moreover, Amoy Jr. also said that public consultation with the community was conducted. It was even claimed that there were no oppositions that came from the residents. It was also alleged that the residents only opposed the construction after the incident brought by typhoon Ompong.
Randolf Sabado, a resident of Sitio Kesbeng, on the other hand, contradicted the statement by the Barangay Poblacion. According to him, they have been opposing the said project for a decade by filing several petitions. He further said that no public consultation was ever made neither were there public announcements for a public consultation. In fact, the initial report of the CDJ to the Municipality of La Trinidad showed that only the barangay officials of Poblacion attended the said public consultation.
Due to these circumstances, the barangay requested a resolution for closure of the project with the office of the Mayor. Thus, Mayor Romeo Salda of La Trinidad issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) in January 2019 against the CDJ. The CDJ, on the other hand, filed a Motion to lift the CDO which was granted. At present, the CDJ is now processing their building permit to continue the operation and to construct the mitigating measures which has to be built first before continuing the project.
Further, Amoy Jr. admits that local ordinances on development projects are not yet established.
“As long as the CDJ comply with the requirements, there will be no problem in their construction of subdivision because it is their right to do so. But like any other rights, it has to be exercised with caution because it may bring about unwanted effect to the environment,” Amoy Jr. said.
“The local government does not seem to be helping the community. It seems that they favor the developers more than the welfare of the community,” Sabado decried.